You’re up and running – now make business run better

As a marketplace business grows so can the time-consuming tasks. Isabel Dexter looks at how to save time and money without compromising your customer experience.

When you’re just setting up your marketplace business, you can afford to dedicate time and energy to the day-to-day stuff: handling transactions, picking and packing orders, addressing customer queries. But as your business grows and the orders mount up, so too will the demands on your time and resources.

It then becomes vital to find ways to increase efficiency in everything you do without compromising your customer experience. That way, you can free up time and money to actually expand your business rather than merely treading water.

Review what you do

It’s a good idea to periodically look at the way you do things and ask yourself if it’s still suitable for your requirements. Take parcel despatch: in those early days of the business, you’ll no doubt have wrapped parcels yourself, taken them down to the local Post Office® and affixed postage stamps.

Which is all very well when you’re just dealing with a few parcels a day. But when you’re dealing with larger volumes of parcels, it’s a different story. Is sticking hundreds of stamps really the best use of your time?

Fortunately, there are simple alternatives that could free you up to do other things, and save you money in the process.

For a start, you could arrange to have your marketplace parcels collected from your premises, either on a one-off or regular basis. So you’ll have no more afternoons disrupted by last minute dashes to the Post Office®, and more time to concentrate on other aspects of the business.

Handle things in-house

As for postage, you might consider using a franking machine rather than fiddling around with postage stamps. Available to rent or buy, franking machines let you print postage directly onto labels and envelopes and they offer discounted rates on postage. They’re available in a range of sizes too, including compact models – you don’t need a dedicated post room just yet – and they’re generally straightforward to set up and use.

Franking also helps give your parcels a more professional appearance – you can even print your company logo alongside the postage. Just a small detail but if it helps improve people’s perception of your business, then it’s well worth doing.

“tools such as Click & Drop let you import order details directly from your eBay account”

Make the most of online tools

You’ll find a range of online tools out there that could be a real boon to your business. For example, online services that let you buy and print postage from your home or office. There are even tools such as Click & Drop, which lets you import order details directly from your eBay account and pay and print postage without needing to enter customer details again. You can then simply drop off your pre-paid parcels at a local Post Office® branch.

The right online tools will make your business processes easier and more efficient, so take time to choose wisely. Think value for money and convenience.

Keep your data clean

Accurate, up-to-date data is absolutely vital. According to Experian Data Quality, Global Research Report 2014, 88% of businesses say that inaccurate contact data has a direct impact on the bottom line, with a huge 12% impact on income generated. Why? Because data drives so many aspects of business, from transactions to communications to marketing, that if you get it wrong, it costs.

For example, as a marketplace seller, if your customer data is inaccurate, you could end up with failed deliveries or errors in invoicing and payments. This will add cost to your operations, impact your cash flow, and perhaps most significantly, damage your relationship with your customers. In a world where customer ratings and reviews play such a key role, that’s something you can ill afford.

The good news is a range of data services are readily available that not only help you capture customer data accurately but also clean and maintain your data on a regular basis. Some of these services don’t come cheap but in the long run, they could save you huge amounts of time, money, and customer goodwill.

Keeping customers happy

Customer satisfaction is a top priority, but the time and effort – not to mention money – you spend on managing existing customers and maintaining services can compromise your efforts to grow the business and reach out to new customers.

“as your business expands, it may be increasingly difficult for you to handle the returns process”

But there are easy ways to free up resources without letting your standards slide. For example, as your business expands, it may be increasingly difficult for you to handle the returns process. If so, you could consider putting returns management in the hands of your delivery partner, who is probably better equipped to deal with large volumes of returns. Given how much marketplace customers value a positive returns experience, this could prove invaluable to your business.

It’s all about sustainable growth

Saving time and money on day-to-day tasks means you can keep your existing customers satisfied, whilst having the time and energy to plan ahead and expand your business. Consider new tools and services that will maximise efficiency and help ensure organic growth for your marketplace business, without jeopardising your hard-earned seller reputation.

Isabel Dexter is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of newspapers and magazines including The Times, The Times Magazine and The Guardian.

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